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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 13: Baptism–Ship of Good Hope; Creation?; The Keys

This continues the series of blog posts (Table of Contents is in Part 1) publishing my translation of the published essay from the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference in 1872.  This covers pages 61-63 of the original German essay (pages 20-68).  In this section, Thesis 8 is elaborated, and begins an extended quote from Luther's essay on The Keys from 1530.
    What a delight to read of the doctrine of Baptism in the light of the pure Doctrine of Justification.  And read Walther's analogy of a ship that has not overturned but is always there to grab onto if we fall out... to take us to heaven.  Some Christian artist should paint the picture of this analogy – God's ship of good hope that never fails.
    At the end of [SCR 61], Walther uses the analogy of disbelieving creation ("godless") to disbelieving the Absolution...  a clear teaching that all of God's Word is true, as Ken Ham says "from the very first verse!".  But I think the LC-MS needs more unbiased research (à la Edward Englebrecht) to find the truth of the teaching of creation – "you can't be too careful".  They will not discipline a teacher in their midst who publicly denies creation. (see further documentation.)  Now Ken Ham may have a problem with the Lutheran doctrine of Absolution, but what about today's LC-MS... do they even believe the pure teaching of Absolution, let alone believe creation?  But one thing is true with them... they would call themselves "confessional Lutherans" and set themselves up as judges of Luther, Walther and... Franz Pieper, the pure teachers of the Gospel.
Part 13
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 12)
[SCR 61] Now indeed, as concerns the latter, no one is to be allowed to the Sacrament unless he is questioned and confesses that he believes; but whether he tells the truth or pretends I cannot know, because I cannot look into his heart. So I do what God commands me, and am certain that I truly absolve all; whether [LS XXXI/1, 2-4] they enjoy it, I do not know.  [LS paragraph]  It is even not only that a justification is only made possible, but has been acquired and has taken place. [KM paragraph]

As therefore we speak of the nature of the Gospel and the Absolution, so God's Word itself speaks of it, that God gives and bestows, without respect to whether the matter is accepted or not.  We simply adhere [KM 35] to the Word against the adversaries of this doctrine: "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself", 2 Tim. 2:13; "For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?  God forbid", Rom. 3:3-4. According to the doctrine of our opponents I would have to discard everything I had ever received, as soon as I began to doubt whether I in fact then believed properly.  If I had myself baptized today, but a year hence I developed doubts, whether I had properly believed it, so I would have to be baptized again.  But, thanks be to God, we may with certainty comfort ourselves of this: what God has done to us, He has done to us forever, and does not undo it from His side; we should only believe.  But cursed be the doctrine which makes the worthiness, power, and validity of the Absolution dependent on my faith.  For that is precisely the poor sinner's consolation, that he knows: the dear God does not deceive me when He speaks with me.  If therefore I was not in the right frame of mind before, I shall now comfort myself with this, that God does not repent of His gifts and calling.  So my Baptism is valid even if I fall and reject its grace. It may very well be that I have then fallen out of the ship into the sea of perdition, but the ship, with everything that can take me to heaven, is still there; I must only return to the ship and console myself anew with my Baptism.  Indeed, were it possible that someone could be godless and yet retain his Baptism, then he would certainly get to heaven; but that is simply impossible.  This is a very comforting doctrine for the terrified sinner, because it shows him that the devil has no right and no power over him, if only he does not throw away the Word.
[KM paragraph]
We cannot emphasize enough, what is said in the Augsburg Confession: the Absolution, which is spoken to me, is always God's Word. [see A.C.-Article XXV, Of Confession, paragr. 2-6, also Apology-Article XII (V): Of Repentance, paragrs. 40-41]  The meaning is not that the words are simply taken from the Bible, but: When the pastor absolves you, you can believe that it is God who says to you through the mouth of a poor sinner: as you believe, so it happens for [geschehe, KM- be it done to] you.  So godless would it be if you hear: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" and you would not believe this, even so godless it is when you are absolved and you say: That is not true, that to me forgiveness is here give, for I am a great sinner, [SCR 62] I indeed do not stand in faith, and so forth.  If the doctrine of the opponents were true, then the unbelievers would be right when they say: "Bah, what do we care what the clergyman says?"  Since then it would really be but an empty Word; but now their talk is so terrible for this very reason, because it is God's Absolution which they despise and ridicule.  As gold remains gold even though it is stolen or cast into the mud, so the Absolution remains Absolution, even though it is despised by unbelievers.  Even as prisoners who hear that they are pardoned, and say: But we like it in prison, are nevertheless pardoned, so likewise they are absolved who do not accept the Word and what it brings.  For the great King, God the Lord, has pardoned the world, and has sent forth His servants to bring this message to men.  Therefore Luther writes so gloriously:
Consequently, there must lie hidden in the keys of Christ his blood, death, and resurrection, by which he has opened to us heaven, and thus imparts through the keys to poor sinners what he has wrought through his blood. . . .
Remember that the keys or the forgiveness of sins are not based on our own repentance or worthiness, as they wrongly teach. Such teachings are entirely Pelagian, Turkish (Mohammedan), [KM 36] pagan, Jewish, like those of the Anabaptists, fanatics, and anti-Christian.  On the contrary our repentance and work, our disposition and all we are, should be built on the keys. We are to depend on them with as daring confidence as on God's Word itself. You must never doubt what the keys say and give you, at the risk of losing both body and soul.  It is as certain as if God himself were saying so, which indeed he does. It is his own Word and command. [LS XXXI/1, 3-1] But if you doubt the same you make God a liar. You pervert his order and base his keys on your own repentance and worthiness.  You should, indeed, repent. But to make repentance the basis of the forgiveness of your sins and of corroborating the work of the keys, is to abandon faith and deny Christ. By means of the key, he will forgive your sins, not for your own sake but for his own name's sake, out of pure grace. . . .
Do not allow yourself to be led astray by this Pharisaic babbling by which some deceive themselves, saying, "How can a man forgive sins when he can bestow neither grace nor the Holy Spirit?" Rely on the words of Christ and be assured that God has no other way to forgive sins than through the spoken Word, as he has commanded us.  If you do not look for forgiveness through the Word, you will gape toward heaven in vain for grace, or (as they say), for a sense of inner forgiveness.
But if you speak as the factious spirits and sophists do: "After all, many hear of the binding and loosing of the keys, yet it makes no impression on them and they remain unbound and without being loosed. Hence, there must exist something else beside the Word and the keys.  It is the spirit, the spirit, yes, the spirit that does it! Do you believe he is not bound who does not believe in the key which binds?  Indeed, he shall learn, [SCR 63] in due time, that his unbelief did not make the binding vain, Indeed, he shall learn, [SCR 63] in due time, that his unbelief did not make the binding vain, nor did it fail in its purpose.  Even he who does not believe that he is free and his sins forgiven shall also learn, in due time, how assuredly his sins were forgiven, even though he did not believe it. [LS XXXI/1, 3-1/… end of LS 3-1. Note: all of the balance of Thesis 8 omitted by Lutheran Standard.; see KM 38 where it is resumed again by Lutheran Standard.] St. Paul says in Rom. 3:3: "Their faithlessness nullifies not the faithfulness of God."  We are not talking here either about people's belief or disbelief regarding the efficacy of the keys.  We realize that few believe.  We are speaking of what the keys accomplish and give. He who does not accept what the keys give receives of course nothing.  But this is not the key's fault.  Many do not believe the gospel, but this does not mean that the gospel is not true or effective. A king gives you a castle. If you do not accept it, then it is not the king's fault, nor is he guilty of a lie. But you have deceived yourself and the fault is yours. The king certainly gave it.
Well, you say, here you yourself teach that the key fails.  For the keys do not accomplish their purpose when some do not believe nor accept. Well, friend, if [KM 37] you call this failing, then God fails in all his words and works. For few accept what he constantly speaks and does for all.  This means doing violence to the proper meaning of words. I do not call it a failure or a mistake if I say or do something, and somebody else despises or ignores it. But so they understand, teach, and observe concerning the pope's wrong key: The key itself can err, even though a person would like to accept and rely on it.  For it is a conditionalis clavis, a conditional, a vacillating key which does not direct us to God's Word, but to our own repentance.  It does not say candidly and boldly that you are to believe that I most certainly loose you. But it says that if you are repentant and pious, I loose you, if not, then I fail.  That is the clavis errans, the erring key. It cannot with any assurance say that I know for certain that I have loosed you before God, whether you believe it or not, as St. Peter's key can say.  But it must say something like this, that I loose you on earth, but I really and truly do not know whether you are loosed before God.  For faith has not been taught in connection with the keys, as one clearly sees in the bulls of indulgence wherein repentance and confession and money are required but nothing is ever said of faith.
This is quite evident, for they neither repent of nor punish such deceitful uncertainties, among themselves or in others. They proceed confidently as if such doubting were no sin at all, reasoning thus: It makes no difference whether I have hit the mark; if I have missed the mark, I have missed it.  They display no compunction of conscience or worry on account of such unbelief.  Yet it is an abominable unbelief on the part of both him who binds and looses as well as on the part of him who is being bound and loosed.  For it is God's Word and command that the former speaks and the latter listens. Both are bound, on peril of losing their soul's salvation, to believe this article as truly and firmly as all other articles of faith.  For he who binds and looses without faith, and doubts whether he succeeds in binding and loosing rightly, or thinks [SCR 64] to himself quite unconcernedly,...
= = = = = = continued in Part 14 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Ah, I remember the teaching of "The Keys" from catechism class, but it seemed so far away and antiquated.  But Walther and Luther rub it in our face and say you cannot forget this, for it is God's heart, that His announcement of the forgiveness of sins is given to you even if you do not believe it.  Thereby is the sinner made absolutely certain that what he grasps by faith is without doubt the hand of God.  No monstrum incertitudinus with Luther... or with Walther.  But what a jolt they give us when they say that if we do not believe this, we "blaspheme and deny Christ".   I don't want to "blaspheme and deny Christ"...
Mark 9:24 – Lord... help thou mine unbelief.
In the next Part 15...

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